MEDITERRANEAN GARDEN PASTA

We’ve finally made it to that special time of year. That time when bright sunny days give way to softer evenings. The excitement of firing up the grill for the first time has settled lazily into an easy routine.

As Mainers, we don’t take these days for granted. Spring repairs have been done, gardens planted and at last, we are able to sit back, perhaps with a glass of wine, and just relax. It’s also the time of year ripe for adding seasonal greens, picked fresh, into our favorite dishes.

With this in mind, we wanted to share a recipe that could easily incorporate whatever you may have grown yourself or picked up from a local farmer. We envisioned a one-plate recipe that could rest on the arm of an Adirondack chair. Incorporating the Mediterranean diet into this seemed only fitting.

The benefits of a Mediterranean diet have been proven time and again. Though mostly recognized for its tremendous effects on cardiovascular health, this style of eating has also been shown to aid in weight loss, slow the aging process, lower the incidence of Type 2 diabetes and reduce the risks of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Studies have also proven strong correlations between consuming a Mediterranean diet and having a better quality of life.

So what makes this diet so special? It’s rooted (no surprise here) around lots of plant based foods, adding in nuts and beans with limited amounts of fish and poultry for protein. Dairy is incorporated in the forms of cheese and yogurt while olive oil becomes the pick over butter, replacing trans fats with the much healthier polyunsaturated fats. Finish your meal off with some heart healthy wine and you have yourself a food plan so delicious you’d never call it a “diet”.

THE RECIPE

1 lb Chicken breast tenderloins

4-5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4-5 (or more) cloves chopped garlic

1 lb cherry tomatoes or sun dried tomatoes soaked in olive oil

3 Tablespoons butter

2 cups chicken stock (preferably home made)

4-5oz crumbled feta

1 (or more) cups dry white wine

1 lb of your choice of noodles

½ cup toasted pine nuts

2-4 cups of your favorite greens

Salt n pepper to taste

We added in Kalamata olives and artichoke hearts but this yummy recipe would also be delicious with shallots and mushrooms. And then we simply topped it with fresh basil and added a hunk of crusty Italian bread to sop up the scrumptious sauce.

This dish is easiest to throw together in a jiffy as long as you’re organized. Cut your veggies ahead of time and grill up the chicken while cooking your pasta. Add it all into the sauté pan and Voila!

To Start:

Cook the pasta to al dente while grilling or sautéing the chicken to desired doneness. Set aside.

In a sauté pan over medium to medium high heat, melt butter with olive and add in chopped garlic, stirring frequently until golden brown. Add the white wine and turn the heat up a bit, allowing the wine to come to a boil and then lower heat and let the wine reduce by half. Don’t forget to keep stirring.

Add the chicken stock. For a thicker sauce, whisk in a pinch of corn starch to the chicken stock before adding to the wine mixture. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the tomatoes, chicken and half of the feta. Fold in the greens and any other ingredients you may fancy and let wilt a bit before stirring in the pasta.

To finish, add in the pine nuts and top with the remaining feta. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy this simply perfect summer dish.

HOW LOCAL COULD WE GET?

Greens, Tomatoes, Garlic – garden picked

Bread – Massimo’s Bangor